Rash Of Attacks Have Colorado Police Officers On Edge

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Photo: Colorado Springs police officer funeral (AP Photo)
Nicole Miranda of Colorado Springs, Colo., salutes as procession of police vehicles follows hearse carrying the body of slain University of Colorado-Colorado Springs police officer Garrett Swasey passes by on the way to Evergreen Cemetery late Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, in north Colorado Springs, Colo.

It’s been a tough month for peace officers in this state; two have died in the line of duty and nearly a dozen have been injured.

In early November, a drunk driver killed a state trooper. Then it was the attack at a Planned Parenthood clinic, with one officer killed and five injured. That same weekend, an Aurora police officer was attacked by a motorist he was trying to help. And just in the past week, two Denver police officers have been shot.

Denver psychologist John Nicoletti has a phrase for times like this.

"Too much, too many, too ugly," he said.

Nicoletti counsels police departments and officers on how to cope with stress. He says the recent string of violent incidents has an impact beyond the departments they directly affected.

"And then when officers are faced with that ... they become a little more hyper vigilant," Nicoletti said. "Kind of like, when’s the next shoe going to fall?"

Police departments have gotten better about urging officers to seek counseling services to deal with their concerns, according to Nicoletti. That’s what Evans police chief Rick Brandt has been doing lately. Brandt heads the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.

"We remind our officers: this is available, this is out there," Brandt said. "If you are feeling higher levels of anxiety, there are places you can go and people you can talk to to help you deal with those issues."

Brandt says before the recent string of Colorado incidents, police here were already on edge because of national events. Officer-involved deaths in other cities have sparked an ongoing dialogue about police-community interactions, one Brandt says has at times left officers feeling targeted.

Nationally however, fewer police officers have died in shootings this year than in 2014. That may not be much comfort for Colorado officers though, who wonder when the spate of violent incidents will end.